Deep into the second wave of free agency, the old and sometimes broken down offensive tackles on the open market are starting to get some action.
On the heels of John St. Clair’s signing Tuesday in Cleveland where he received a $600,000 signing bonus as part of a $9 million, three-year contract, there is some movement. Former St. Louis Rams all-pro Orlando Pace will visit with the Baltimore Ravens today. On the other coast, Marvel Smith, who represented the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Pro Bowl, will visit the San Francisco 49ers.
The Bears, meanwhile, will line up Cody Balogh at right tackle this afternoon in minicamp practice No. 2 unless the Frank Omiyale-to-left-guard plan is a thing of the past after one day. Take a deep breath for a moment. The regular season does not begin for six months. As we wrote the other day, Lovie Smith could race over to Lake Forest College and grab a lineman to put at right tackle for three days in a non-contact minicamp. The Bears have options and while none of them scream Keith Van Horne or Big Cat Williams, not now any way, let’s be honest here. Re-signing St. Clair and lining him up at right tackle wasn’t a longterm solution. The Bears are working to get younger (and maybe bigger) on the line. Re-signing St. Clair probably would not have altered or delayed a goal to draft a tackle next month. The Bears valued St. Clair as a backup and that was reflected in the offer they made him.
So, in their quest to get younger, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand will hit the road next week to work out Oklahoma’s Phil Loadholt and Arizona’s Eben Britton. Maybe he has some other stops planned, but there are none we know of to this point. If Pace and Marvel Smith sign, that is going to eliminate a couple options right there. But the market is going to remain fluid. If Pace lands in Baltimore, that means Willie Anderson could potentially be cut loose. The Niners could launch Jones Jennings whether they land Marvel Smith or not.
Anderson, Jennings and Levi Jones, who should get sprung from Cleveland, all have issues. We ran down a list of possibilities right here earlier in the week.
It struck at least this observer as silly Tuesday that Omiyale was lining up with the second team. Who are they kidding here?
“I don’t know much about him but he looks like a hell of a player,” center Olin Kreutz offered after the first practice.
The Bears didn’t spring out of the blocks into free agency to sign Omiyale and have him replace Terrence Metcalf as the resident backup for the foreseeable future. Omiyale is going to pull down $6.3 million this season in his $11.5 million, four-year deal that can max out at $14 million. He was signed with an eye toward him being a starter so why not put him with the first team?
“It is a great opportunity, coming in and having some spots that need to be filled,” Omiyale said. “It’s just a good opportunity and try to show my athleticism and let the coaches make the decisions where I’m best fitted.”
The plan–at least with St. Clair on board–was for Omiyale to work at left guard along with Josh Beekman. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner explained that Roberto Garza and Dan Buenning would compete at right guard.
Omiyale doesn’t seem to have a preference but is clearly more experienced at tackle. Working at just one position for now will help him learn the scheme.
“Right now, just until I get the offense down and get all the lingo because coach Hiestand was already talking about learning the whole picture, not one position,” Omiyale said. “I think just getting [comfortable] at first and then if they need me to move around I’ll be able to do that anytime.”
Anytime could be beckoning. We’ll see at practice this afternoon.